This sequel to the 2013 crossover title aims to right the wrongs of the original, but does it actually make a marked improvement?
The original Project X Zone was a mediocre game that suffered from a lot of problems. It was plagued by repetitive combat/missions, excessive dialogue, and an insultingly easy difficulty along withthe most boring maps ever conceived in a strategy RPG. Project X Zone 2 begins on a positive note for the first few hours, but by the midway point, repetition sets in yet again with another 15-20 hours of playtime still to go. The writing and character interactions have seen the biggest improvement. Dialogue is more consistently funny with some fairly subtle references to beloved and obscure franchises/titles alike. Players are treated to a pleasant experience for hours, but as the in-game cast grows, dialogue begins to suffer. Every character needs to have a word in and basic scenes that should move along briskly grind to a halt when 20+ characters have to iterate upon the same message one after the other. The writers of Project X Zone 2 need a serious crash course in restraint.
Gameplay has seen minor improvements. The addition of the mirage cancel, which allows players to expend 100 XP to cancel any attack mid-combo and slow down time, does add extra strategic options to combat. However, that’s essentially the extent to which the core gameplay has seen any revisions and it’s not necessary to complete the game at the default difficulty. Every map still boils down to finding the best combo set-ups that work for each pair and very rarely deviating from that. The cross break system has also been slightly tweaked.
In the original, having a pair and solo unit attack an enemy at the same time would initiate a cross break, freezing the enemy in place. This made timing combos significantly easier. In Project X Zone 2, the cross break system still locks enemies in place, but it’ll short out more quickly. This places a different emphasis on the use of cross breaks. Whereas one used to intimate cross breaks for reliable to hit combos, it now serves more as a tool to fill up the XP meter. Beyond that, the core of Project X Zone has remained unchanged. Players still will acquire more gold than they know what to do with and items can still be used on the map with no limit. This generous item usage along with the mostly basic maps means the “strategy” in this strategy RPG is all but nonexistent. Careful attention to a unit’s positioning isn’t required. Some maps in the story mode have interesting hazards and gimmicks that need to be either avoided or manipulated, but these are too few and far between. Out of the 42 chapter total, less than ten make use of the environment in an interesting way, leading to a dull experience.
And dull is perhaps the best summation of what it feels like to play Project X Zone 2 through to completion. It starts strong with genuinely funny dialogue that doesn’t overstay its welcome and the soundtrack is a fanboy’s wet dream. The combat also has its moments. Earning a new pair unit and attempting to figure out the most efficient combo can be surprisngly engaging, but these qualities can only carry the game so far. It takes a hard left turn by the mid-point. Fans of Project X Zone will like its sequel even more, but anybody that hated the original isn’t going to be convinced by this slight iterative installment. The franchise still has potential to grow and be something truly special. The question is whether or not the developers will capitalize upon that potential.